A Will is a legal document that specifies the designation of assets after an individual passes away and, among other things, can appoint guardians for minor children. Although most people know that drafting a Will and having an estate plan is important, many people are hesitant to draft one for one reason or another. According to a 2015 survey by Harris Poll, 64 percent of Americans do not have a Will. According to Wealth Management, the top nine reasons people procrastinate writing a Will and estate plan are as follows:
I’m too young to write a Will.
An unforeseen health problem or unexpected accident can happen at any moment and people need to be prepared for when an unimaginable event occurs. Any individual over the age of 18 years old can draft a Will. Those with real estate properties, children, or a business are highly encouraged to have one. A Will can ensure that assets are distributed to proper recipients and that young children are going to be cared for by the guardian who is most fit.
I don’t want to think about dying.
No one likes to consider the possibility of one’s own death. However, should the person pass away or become incapacitated, it will serve as a guide for designating the estate representatives and beneficiaries. It can also relieve stress from loved ones by helping them to understand the person’s final wishes during a very emotional time. Most importantly, it will ensure that loved ones are properly provided for and assets will be passed exactly as they were intended to be.
The assets will automatically pass to my beneficiaries.
When an individual dies without a Will, they die “intestate.” Each state has its own set of laws when it comes to how intestate property is distributed. For New York, the state distributes the property according to the statutory scheme of succession: passing it on first to the spouse and children, followed by parents and siblings, and finally other relatives. However, there are legal complexities involved. For example, if the person is living with their partner, rather than being legally married, they might not be entitled to inherit the estate. Although an individual may wish for their finances to be given to charities or non-family members (including pets, which are considered property under the law), the state will not provide provisions outside of immediate family members when the individual dies intestate.
It is expensive to draft a Will.
The cost of drafting a Will varies based on how complex the affairs are of the person who is making the Will. However, drafting a Will is likely to financially offset the additional time, money and stress it costs family members and loved ones when a person dies intestate.
Only wealthy people need to draft Wills.
Wills serve not only to pass down a large estate. A Will can ensure that an individual’s assets and properties, whether it be a house or a heirloom, are provided to the intended loved one.
I am not ready to make important life decisions.
A Will is not an end-all legal document in the sense that it can be adapted and amended throughout various points in an individual’s life. Following life events, such as the birth of children, divorce and remarriages, a Will can be updated to include and exclude more assets and beneficiaries.
Family conflict can arise from drafting a Will.
There’s a reason that intestate celebrities, including Anna Nicole Smith, Prince and Michael Jackson, made the news: family conflict over their estate. Not leaving a clear set of guidelines outlined in a Will can contribute to family tension and disputes over the division of assets. Also, in some instances, it’s the items that have the most sentimental value, versus the ones with the most financial value that loved ones wind up quarreling over.
I don’t want to discuss personal information with an attorney.
All lawyers abide by a client-attorney privilege, as well as other ethical guidelines that are in place to protect the best interests of their clients.
I am not aware of the consequences of not having a Will.
There are several legal, tax, and emotional consequences that may arise when an individual dies intestate. Among the most prominent ramifications include not assigning a guardian to minor children, leaving beneficiaries to pay taxes due to lack of estate planning, and conflicts arising between family members and loved ones over how to divide the assets.
The more assets left to be divided if there is no Will, the more time and stress it poses to loved ones. Dying without a Will levies one’s freedom to decide how property will be divided to the state. Not only does dying intestate limit the ability to decide on the distribution of property, but it now puts the power of making personal, familial decisions into the hands of a stranger. This may stir up conflict among family members over items of sentimental value. This can also be true for intestate processes that involve children from previous marriages.
Also, when a loved one dies, taxes may not be the first thing on the minds of the family members and friends. However, when an estate is passed down, it is subject to taxes that are due as a result of the person’s passing. In 2017, the federal estate tax exemption is $5.45 million. However, New York State is one of a handful of states that still poses an estate tax albeit at a very high amount. Beneficiaries may also have to pay income taxes (state and/or federal) on some of the assets they inherit.
By consulting with an experienced New York estate planning lawyer, one can avoid negative tax consequences. An estate planning attorney can assist with choosing a proper executor, the individual who will administer the estate, distribute property, pay debts, and help find ways to limit tax liability.
You are never too young to put together a properly executed estate plan. An experienced New York estate planning attorney can assist you with drafting a Will and advise you on complex estate planning issues. The estate planning lawyers at Tully Law, PC Will take the time to review your current goals and circumstances and do their best to ensure that your assets are protected and your wishes will be carried out per your estate plan. Tully Law, PC has two conveniently located estate planning law offices in Melville, New York and Centereach, New York. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call (631) 424-2800 or fill out our contact form.